Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist from NASA, was inspired by Christopher Nolan's 2014 film "Interstellar" to study the possibility of life flourishing in a planet that's orbiting a supermassive black hole.
In Schnittman's latest study, which has been submitted for publication through ArXiv.org, he cited the science fiction film as the primary inspiration for his research. In the movie, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, astronauts ventured out into space in search of a planet that can support life.
The mission was launched in response to the worsening environmental conditions on Earth. During their journey, they encounter a couple of planets orbiting a black hole known as Gargantua.
According to Schnittman, the energy emitted by black holes supports the notion that habitable planets can exist near these massive cosmic objects. As indicated in various scientific reports, the centre of black holes is surrounded by accretion disks. These disks were formed by the debris from the cosmic materials being devoured by a black hole.
Due to the powerful frictional and gravitation forces interacting within these disks, they can cause black holes to emit high levels of energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation.
These emissions can be compared to those of stars such as the Sun. In the search for exoplanets, one of the factors that scientists look for is the existence of a host star near the planet. The heat and energy emitted by the host star can make the planet habitable.
"Most of what we know about black holes comes from observing the electromagnetic radiation coming from gas as it accretes onto the black hole," Schnittman wrote in his study.
"Accreting stellar-mass black holes are the brightest X-ray sources in the sky, and accreting supermassive black holes are the most luminous persistent sources in the universe," he continued.
Even though black holes emit energy, Schnittman, however, noted that it may still not be able to support life on an orbiting planet. According to the NASA astrophysicist, the type of energy or radiation emitted by black holes could prevent life from thriving.
"All known life forms require an energy gradient in order to survive, so an all-pervasive blackbody radiation background would probably not be very conducive to complex life," Schnittman stated.
"Certainly not photosynthesis, which requires photon energies sufficient to break key molecular bonds," he added.